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Cuban-Americans Agree With Ending 'Wet Foot-Dry Foot' – If Returning Migrants Are Not Harassed

Al Diaz
Miami Herald
Cubans wave goodbye to rafters headed across the Florida Straits.

The "wet foot, dry foot" policy is over. For more than 20 years, Cubans migrating to the U.S. enjoyed that special privilege, which meant if they made it to dry land here they could stay. President Barack Obama ended it on Thursday– and even most Cubans here agree with him.

President Bill Clinton created the wet foot-dry foot policy in 1995 as a way to appease both the Cuban government and Cuban exile leaders. But since then it’s become a controversial rule that many Cuban-Americans say is antiquated now that the U.S. and Cuba have normalized relations.

“Wet foot, dry foot was really having the effect of creating an incentive for Cubans to take to the high seas and risk their lives or being trafficked over Central America to the Mexican border in order to make it to American shores," says Cuban-American attorney Ric Herrero, who heads #Cuba Now, a Miami organization that supports engagement with Cuba.

But Herrero says it’s just as important that Cuba’s communist government not harass migrants once they’re returned to the island.

“It remains to be seen," says Herrero, "but I presume that the agreement means they are not going to face charges once they get back to Cuba. Otherwise it’s a toothless agreement and it means nothing.”

The number of Cubans coming to the U.S. has doubled since Washington and Havana normalized relations two years ago. Meanwhile, legal Cuban migrants will still enjoy a fast-track process to U.S. residency and citizenship under the Cuban Adjustment Act.